WHO to launch polio emergency plan to eradicate disease
Later this week, during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to declare polio as a global health emergency.
It is anticipated that the WHO will launch an emergency plan to eradicate the disease once and for all, as outbreaks have occurred in countries that were previously free from polio.
The WHO is also hoping to boost vaccination programmes in the three countries where polio remains as an endemic; Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
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Although during the first half of 2012 cases of polio have dropped in the above locations, the WHO says it needs more funding if it is to eliminate the disease completely.
Commenting on the current situation, Bruce Aylward, the head of the WHO's polio eradication campaign told BBC News: “Over the last 24 months on three continents - in Europe, in Africa and in Asia - we have seen horrific explosive outbreaks of the disease that affected adults, and in some cases 50 percent of them died.
“What it reminded people is that, if eradication fails, we are going to see a huge and vicious upsurge of this disease with consequences that it is very difficult even to foresee right now.”
Meanwhile Sona Bari, also involved in the WHO’s campaign to eradicate polio, added: “We are really on a tipping point between success and failure.”
China is one of the countries were polio has reoccurred, recently experiencing some of its first cases in more than 10 years.
However, in what was a huge boost for the World Health Organisation, India – largely considered to be one of the most challenging countries with regards to polio - was officially declared as being polio-free.
The WHO has said if steps are not taken to wipe out the disease now, recent improvements will be lost and potentially 200,000 could be affected by polio in the coming decade.
According to Ban Ki-Moon, the WHO has estimated that it will need US$2 billion worth of funding to intensify its efforts over the next year.
It already has half of its target and is looking to source the remaining $1 billion.
WHO members are expected to vote on whether or not to declare polio as a global health emergency within the next few days.
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